Chris Messina, Mindy Kaling
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Question: I heard that Fox canceled its freshmen sitcoms Dads, Enlisted and Surviving Jack! While I never watched and didn't care for Dads, I did watch (and loved!) both Enlisted and Surviving Jack. What puzzles me about the cancellations of all of these shows were that their ratings performed with the same numbers that Fox's other sitcoms New Girl, The Mindy Project and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, yet those shows all got renewed for another season! Why is it that The Powers That Be at Fox would cancel three shows that had the same low (or modest) ratings as the other three shows that got picked up for another year? It doesn't really make sense with me! - Chris
Matt Roush: This time of year is confusing and disappointing to a lot of people. Even the lowest-rated shows tend to have some fan base, and the casualties of the last week are pretty epic in number, and can often feel arbitrary. But as we often say during our TV Guide Magazine staff meetings, as we speculate on the fate of various network shows, "They can't cancel everything." With Fox in particular (but reflecting network TV in general), this was a year without a real breakout comedy hit, so in making the choice of what to keep and what to drop, it looks like Fox decided to double down on shows that fit the brand or at least had a media profile and which could continue to form compatible blocks like the romcom New Girl-Mindy pairing. The acclaim and awards Brooklyn Nine-Nine enjoyed in its first season ensured that Fox would continue to try to support and nurture it, so that renewal was a no-brainer. But given the precarious state of so much of network prime time these days, I imagine the decisions are no easier about what to renew than what to cancel.
Question: I want to give The Mindy Project's whole team a big hug for the season finale. I'm feeling nothing but love for them right now. The way the Mindy-Danny relationship developed subtly, thanks to Chris Messina's superb acting, was a revelation. Unlike so many shows where you can tell the writers want you to believe there is chemistry, here was chemistry without words. So the moment, pre-hiatus, when Danny went in for a kiss was wonderful. And the moment where he backed off out of fear, a huge disappointment. I wasn't angry that they "broke them up." I was worried that they were going to weaken the show with an ongoing will-they/won't-they storyline. Instead, they quickly turned it around. The finale storyline would have played ridiculous on any other show. But on a show that's centered on a character who worships romantic comedies, it was pitch-perfect. And Messina's face when Danny realized that he wasn't too late after all was a revelation. Because the show isn't a cultural phenomenon, I know it didn't make waves like a Ross and Rachel moment on Friends. But to me, performance and writing-wise, it ranked up there with the best of those moments. I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous about where the show goes from here. But I'm more than willing to give the writing team a chance to overcome that challenge. I'm probably supposed to have a question, so: With a show that has a small following to begin with, do you think the writers are now locked into the Mindy-Danny relationship? If they break the characters up, would they risk losing too many fans?
A side note: I'm sure it's beating a dead horse, but I can't help but think that the feeling I got at the end of the show was the feeling How I Met Your Mother was shooting for in the series finale, but missed. I think that show's writers, even in their best days, were always better at the comedy part than the romance. — Beth
Matt Roush: The Mindy finale was as adorable as it was clever, and if this perennially "bubble" show hadn't been renewed, it would have made for a perfectly happy ending. But now that we know there is more story to be told, I'm sure there will be many complications ahead in Mindy and Danny's presumed happily-ever-after, but I agree the writers are going to have to play it out for a while without breaking them up (maybe ever, but who knows) or risk alienating the small but adoring audience that has embraced them so far. And that seems a fair comparison with Mother's botched landing.
Question: Heroes and superheroes have caught on like wildfire over the past 10 years. I myself am a big fan of the genre. From Lois & Clark to Smallville, I will pretty much give any new addition a watch. But I know nothing about the comics, other than that they exist. I have never picked up a comic in my life. I am currently a big fan of Arrow, and I know I can't be the only person watching who never read the Green Arrow comics. But I get the feeling sometimes that the writers and producers assume that everyone in their audience is an expert on all things DC. I don't want to have to do research to understand what's going on in the show. I get that they want to give little valentines to the fans of the comics, but will they make sure to always clue the rest of us in to the situation? That goes for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well, and the Marvel movies. — Rose
Matt Roush: With even more DC and Marvel titles heading to prime time — how good does Fox's Gotham look, by the way? — this issue is likely to be even more pervasive in seasons to come. (And I grew up watching superheroes on TV, so this is hardly a new trend.) There's always going to be some tension in these shows with trying to satisfy students of the comics' canon while appealing to a larger mainstream (in which I include myself, because I don't read comics either — more a time factor than a deliberate choice). But I've had no trouble following or enjoying Arrow (and am really looking forward to The Flash), and am taking on faith the events yoking Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the latest Captain America movie, since it's made S.H.I.E.L.D. a better series. Keeping up isn't all that complicated, and if I do feel I'm missing some connection, I'm usually only a Google or Wiki click away from satisfying my curiosity. And for the most part, if you're paying attention, the writers tend to give context to these inside-baseball moments with helpful exposition. My advice: Just roll with it and don't let it feel like homework.
Question: In my opinion, both Scandal and Person of Interest have drifted way off course this season. The story lines have become absurd. Although both shows have been renewed for next year, do you foresee either returning to the original formats that made them successful? — Richard
Matt Roush: To play devil's advocate here, I don't see either series as doing anything but becoming the shows they were always meant to be, for better or (in Scandal's case) possibly worse. Which is: way more than a self-contained procedural, which I'm guessing from the tone of this question is where you would like to see these shows more or less remain. It didn't take long for Scandal to spiral into one of the most berserk melodramas on TV, and the true risk is that as they keep trying to top themselves, it goes beyond being over-the-top to a point of being so silly that it's hard to care what's happening, especially where anything involving B-613 is concerned.
With Person of Interest, I'm betting that however the current Samaritan/Decima/Vigilance situation is resolved, there will still be a number of stand-alone "follow the number and stop the crime" stories for Finch and Reese & Co. to follow, while never losing sight of the bigger picture involving the threats and battles over artificial intelligence such as The Machine and its new clone represent. Since the "HR" police-corruption storyline ended earlier this season, Person of Interest has morphed into much more of a sci-fi thriller, and I'm OK with that. It's one of TV's more reliably exciting and entertaining action series, and while it may seem needlessly complicated, that's part of its appeal. And I don't see either show backtracking to a simpler, safer formula. They're doing just fine as is, though not without complaints from the sidelines (especially where Scandal is concerned).
Question: Have you by chance heard any rumblings of one or more major cast members leaving Person of Interest at the end of this season? Just curious. Also, assuming CBS cancels The Mentalist, what's the chance of it being picked up by another network for next season (and possibly beyond)? — Matt
Matt Roush: I have not heard anything about any more Person of Interest cast departures, but then, I try to keep blinders on as best I can about such things. Imagine having been spoiled about Taraji P. Henson's sudden exit earlier this season. (And glad to hear she's coming back to TV, as part of Fox's Empire ensemble.) As in most things relating to favorite TV shows, I would prefer to be surprised, and I lament knowing in advance when almost any cast member is leaving a series. If anyone is leaving POI, I imagine it would be in a very dramatic fashion, and I'd hate anything to ruin that drama.
And now that it was confirmed over the weekend that CBS is sticking with The Mentalist, at least for one more season, the question of where it may be headed is thankfully moot. But when the day comes (sooner probably than later) that CBS decides to cut another long-running procedural loose to open up slots for new shows, which is this network's habit, I'd be surprised if anyone swoops in to pick it up. Unless it reboots itself again in a way to make it a lot cheaper to continue.
Question: I know Shonda Rhimes is a busy lady balancing Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and a bunch of other things. And I love Scandal as much as anybody. But I just noticed that the last time she wrote an episode of Grey's herself was the plane-crash finale of Season 8 two years ago. This year, the finale is apparently written by William Harper. [Note: According to the latest ABC release, the Grey's finale was written by Austin Guzman.] No disrespect to the other writers on staff, because I fully understand that one person can't write every episode of a long-running network TV show, and Grey's has a talented group of people, some of whom have been servicing these characters for a long time. However, it's kind of sad when the creator of a show can't be bothered to personally write an episode for two years. I figured that she had to write the finale, because it is Sandra Oh's final episode. If I were running a TV show and one of the actors was leaving after a decade-long run, I would absolutely want to have the final word on that character myself.
I still like Grey's, but it does feel like Shonda is more interested in Scandal these days, and it's daunting to imagine the prospect of at least two more years with the show (the length of the new contracts everyone else recently signed) when the creator of the show does not appear to be making the show a priority. I will probably watch Grey's until the bitter end, but I'd rather they let it go with some dignity than running it past the point where nobody cares. (I know some people are already past that point with it, but the fact that the ratings justify keeping it around prove that there are enough of us still there.) What do you think? Also, with Rhimes producing new pilots, is this going to happen to Scandal, too? — Jake
Matt Roush: Didn't some superhero once say, "With great power comes great responsibility?" There are few current TV producers as busy and powerful as Shonda Rhimes, and while her name doesn't appear on as many scripts anymore as she deals with the "executive" aspects of being an "executive producer" of the shows she creates, her reputation is such that it would be surprising if most scripts don't have her fingerprints on them somehow, and the overall storylines even more so. There's little doubt that establishing Scandal and keeping that wacky contraption running would be more all-consuming than her duties on a well-oiled machine like the past-its-prime (though still very watchable) Grey's, and now that she has another ABC drama to oversee in the fall (How to Get Away With Murder), it's entirely possible she'll have to leave much of the mechanics of Scandal to others as well. But to assume she wasn't intimately involved in how Sandra Oh/Cristina Yang was being written out of Grey's, whether she actually wrote the script, is probably a mistake. But these are all fair questions as we ponder the uneven aspects of all of her series.
Question: I really enjoyed watching Ralph Waite as father to Gibbs on NCIS and grandfather to Booth on Bones. We have heard from NCIS about its tribute in Tuesday's season finale, but will Bones be doing anything to remember him and acknowledge his passing? — C Firth
Matt Roush: Bones did air a memorial card at the end of the March 10 episode in Waite's honor, and I'm told the producers are still discussing how to address the passing of Hank Booth in the forthcoming 10th season. Your question prompted this response from series creator Hart Hanson: "It's a big topic of conversation and kind of a big deal for the character Booth — not to mention the intense fondness our actors, writers and crew felt for him."
Question: Over the past 14 TV seasons, one of the indications that the current TV season is ending is an over-the-the top season finale cliffhanger on CSI. So I was somewhat surprised that the current season of CSI ended on a subdued note with Paul Guilfoyle's final scene. Since CSI was renewed back in March, the lack of a cliffhanger can't be attributed to uncertainty about the show continuing for another season. So was the lack of cliffhanger a one-time event to note Guilfoyle's departure, or is this a permanent change in how CSI's seasons will end in the future (assuming that it will continue beyond next season)? — Brian
Matt Roush: I have no idea of what lies in the future for CSI or its finales to come, but if the decision was to give one of the show's few remaining original cast members a dignified (if relatively restrained) exit, which makes sense, I'm OK with that. Extreme life-or-death cliffhangers can become awfully tiresome, and I'm glad CSI sat out this year's cycle of mayhem. This would have been planned long in advance, and I have to believe that when the time comes to retire the CSI mothership, the network and producers will have plenty of time and warning to plan accordingly for such an influential and successful franchise. (In other words, I don't see a hasty see-ya-later the way NBC treated the original Law & Order.)
Question: I started watching Hannibal last year out of vague curiosity, assuming I would drop it once I'd confirmed that it was another broadcast drama "re-imagining" — another word for a failure of originality that desperately and pointlessly uses the same characters and plot set-ups that had been previously put to much better use elsewhere. Now here it is a year later, and not only am I still watching, I'm realizing that although I could name several current dramas that I'd consider to be subjectively "better," I can't remember a show being this mesmerizing. So after going in thinking it would be a boring retread to be abandoned quickly, I'm still looking forward to it each week, even after losing Dr. Chilton, so soon and so explicitly — sacrilege! Do you remember anything like it on TV, particularly in the way it creeps right up to the line of laughable artistic pretentiousness without going over?
On a completely different note, am I the only one who is suddenly seeing Team Brenchel on The Amazing Race as not nearly as annoying as I'd previously thought? Maybe it's just a likeability vacuum caused by the loss of the Cowboys, but what seems like an attitude of entitlement from Dave and Conner — okay, from Dave — and his hypocritical vilification of them for the U-Turn (hypocritical because he immediately did the same to the Afghan-imals) have turned Brendon and Rachel into underdogs running the race against essentially one other team with six members. Maybe it's just the editing, but I'm now quietly cheering for them. It may be a moot point by the time you get this, but with Jet and Cord gone, are you rooting for anyone at this point (assuming you're still even watching)? — Mike
Matt Roush: First, let's talk Hannibal (and congrats for being the first person I can recall submitting a Hannibal-Amazing Race combo question). How thrilled am I that this brilliantly macabre feast for the senses is getting a third season? "Hypnotic" is the word I most often use to describe it, but yes, it is mesmerizing and in a league of its own. The only shows that jump out at me for casting as eerie and sustained a spell are early Twin Peaks and, depending on the case, The X-Files, both of which pushed envelopes in their own time. Hannibal is certainly one for the ages.
And Brenchel (how much do I not love these cutesy names for reality stars?) — I think they may have overplayed the victim card a whiny bit, but when everyone but them is in an alliance of sorts, it's hard not to see them as underdogs. Although when push came to U-Turn, the Afghanimals targeted the Cowboys, not the presumed pariahs of B&R, so they're also extremely lucky. And while Dave also overdid the pouting by taking his own U-Turn too personally, as if somehow they were exempt from this strategy after winning a few legs, that hasn't turned me against the father-son duo entirely. Given Dave's age and resilience from the injury that took him out of the race previously, their win would still be rather refreshing.
Question: When it comes to renewals, I wonder if you have any news about About a Boy. I'm one of those TV fans who has totally ditched network TV, because I guess I'm a snob and I typically prefer the gritty cable shows. However, I gave About a Boy a chance, only because I was a fan of the movie, and I'm glad I did. I know you were on the fence about it, but I'm curious to know if you gave it a second chance. It has become one of my favorite shows. The writers have allowed Fiona (Minnie Driver) to become quirky and goofy rather than just uptight, and they let Will have a heart instead of just being a callow cad. And the kid who plays Marcus is just spot-on. It's really a great show. Do you feel a little warmer toward the show now? It's such a relief to watch a show that has a little bit of feel-good humor instead of just being mean, and I feel like the show is hitting its stride. If you gave up on it, please watch the episode "About a Slopmaster" — totally strange, unusual humor that made me laugh out loud. — Jen
Matt Roush: Your question arrived before the flurry of end-of-week renewals, which happily included About a Boy — and I don't remember having taken an on-the-fence attitude about this one. My initial review, when Boy got a sneak peek premiere during the Winter Olympics, was quite positive, even where Minnie Driver's portrayal of Fiona was concerned. (And if you want to see her dramatic range, check out her quietly devastating work on the Lifetime movie Return to Zero this Saturday.) I'm pleased David Walton finally landed on a show that went to a second season. And while I haven't watched every episode — I pledge to check out the "Slopmaster" episode first chance I get — I'm happy with how it's developing, and will be glad to follow it wherever NBC puts it next season.
Question: Will Jeffrey Grant be back on The Good Wife at some point to stand trial for the killings of Will and the witness? Will we ever find out who killed Dani Littlejohn? — Eve
Matt Roush: All I know for sure is that there will be nothing further regarding that tragic storyline this season. And if I did know more, I probably wouldn't share for all the usual non-spoiler reasons. But hard to imagine we won't revisit Hunter Parrish (who's terrific) in this role at some point, given what an impact this troubled young man's actions had on so many lives.
That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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